Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yoga Stretches - What is the Goal?

I've done yoga, off an on, for about 10 years, not counting the two-hour weekly class I took in college circa 1985. I have had tight hamstrings since ... I was born. 

Now even though I'm no expert, I did have a realization about yoga the other day. It was a day I was doing yoga, after a week of experiencing a sore back. My wife and I were doing an online yoga class from this cool site called Yogaglo. I was truly enjoying the stretches as my sore back was appreciating the gentle movements into the soreness. As the teacher guided students into the postures (asanas), I realized I was only going to go as far as my body dictated, allowing for the stretch that best suited me, apart from the final posture by the teacher.

AHA! Here is where it really hit me.

Western yoga still leans too heavily on the results of completing a full posture, rather than the individuals’ experience within any of the postures. 

This is not possible to those with tendons.

Yes, many teachers do mention this concept in pretty much every class, but not enough of the teachers STRESS heavily and consistently that the individual stretch, and breath into that, is the purpose of a yoga session and the source of the pleasure within a practice. It’s frustrating to watch teachers in the West move deeply into an asana, mostly because they can, with the subtle, perhaps unconscious, message that the fulfillment of it is a goal. 

OK, I can almost do this.

There is no outward unified goal within a yoga class, except for the common understanding that each participant’s body is different and each person can learn to love the practice when he or she moves into a stretch at their own limit and then find the mobility to move gracefully further. Movement by movement. Moment by moment. 

Yoga is an individual practice, and teachers of classes must constantly remind themselves and each student of this truth. It will eliminate the frustration students have when they can’t apparently "keep up" or move as deeply into a posture.  

Let's stretch into this truth. It will only help.

Oh COME ON!!!!

James Anthony Ellis is an enlightened yogi who can maneuver his body into any posture within the practice of Hatha Yoga, thereby awakening each atom and molecule with oxygen flow, creating an environment of pure consciousness and bliss. He is also a talented creative writer, not above some fun and light-hearted fiction. His books and works are found here:

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